The Near Enemies of Awakening
Compassion vs. Pity and Despair
The near enemy of compassion is pity. Instead of feeling the openness of compassion, pity says, “Oh, that poor person. I feel sorry for people like that.” Pity sees them as different from ourselves. It sets up a separation between ourselves and others, a sense of distance and remoteness from the suffering of others that is affirming and gratifying to the self. Compassion, on the other hand, recognizes the suffering of another as a reflection of our own pain: “I understand this; I suffer the same way.” It is empathetic, a mutual connection with the pain and sorrow of life. Compassion is shared suffering.
Another enemy of compassion is despair. Compassion does not mean immersing ourselves in the suffering of others to the point of anguish. Compassion is the tender readiness of the heart to respond to one’s own or another’s pain without despair, resentment, or aversion. It is the wish to dissipate suffering. Compassion embraces those experiencing sorrow, and eliminates cruelty from the mind.
Joy vs. Comparison
The third quality, sympathetic joy, is the ability to feel joy in the happiness of others. The enemy of shared joy is comparison and jealousy. Jealousy compares our joy to that of another. It separates us and believes that joy is limited. If others have it, there will not be enough for us. True shared joy is joy in being, the aliveness, it is an openhearted celebrating of our life with one another. Shared joy takes delight in the success and happiness of all. It wishes that their and our happiness may increase.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are”